Thursday, April 3, 2014
A highly-anticipated matchup ended anticlimactically at Riverview Park, with North Augusta defeating Fox Creek 8-2 on Saturday.
The Jackets (4-5, 0-5 Region 5 AAAA), used timely hitting and a shaky Predator defense to cruise to victory. The Predators (11-2, 5-0 Region 4 A) committed six errors in the game and allowed North Augusta to have two big innings.
“That’s a game that I said from the get-go that we had to play flawless to beat them,” Wesley Brown, Fox Creek’s head coach, said.
“Obviously we didn’t. They came out of the gates with a lot of momentum and were excited for the opportunity. That’s the first time we played in five days, so that kind of hurt us being off. I look at this as a learning opportunity and it’s something that gives us a gauge of where we are at as a team.”
Trib Reece, the starting pitcher for North Augusta, pitched a complete game and only gave up four hits. The two runs the Predators scored were both unearned.
“My mindset was to come off our losing streak and to come out of here with a win,” Reece said. “I guess they (Fox Creek) weren’t ready for it. They do play A ball, so they haven’t seen pitching like this before. We made some errors out there in the third but we fought back and came away with the win.”
North Augusta jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, with Chaz Davey driving in two runs on a double. Fox Creek clawed back with two runs in the 3rd before North Augusta added its final five runs in the fifth and sixth innings.
“I was seeing it really good today,” Davey said. “I was able to come away with some hits and this was a big game for us. We’re all good friends with those guys over there and it’s a rivalry when we play each other. We’re midway through the season, so we wanted to come away with a win going back into region play.”
Vic Radcliff, North Augusta’s head coach, saw the challenge Fox Creek presented and knew his team had to play well to win.
“If you don’t matchup, they’ll beat you,” Radcliff said. “I tried to tell the kids that classification in baseball, you can throw that out the window. Whether you’re A or AAAA, if you have a good pitcher and a good coaching staff, you can beat anybody. You can throw that out the window, because if they have a guy on the mound who can throw and talent around him, they can win. I think that’s what we’ve been preaching to them - focus. There’s a time to play and a time to be serious. Maybe they listened to what we said to them about not focusing on the game itself.”
The Jackets have tried to shake things up in recent games, changing the batting order and personnel to try and produce more offensively. Radcliff and Reece were both pleased with the production against Fox Creek.
“The offense was actually popping today, it’s a good thing that they’re starting to get a little bit better and score some runs,” Reece said.
“We’re trying to shake things up a little bit,” Radcliff said. “Some kids think they’re entitled and invincible with no consequences. I had to send a message that we’re not going to tolerate certain things, we expect certain things and you’ve got to have expectations yourself. So, I started to let them know that this is what we expect and want out of them. We’ve got other people working just as hard and want the opportunity.”
North Augusta is still chasing its first win in the region, a fact that is driving the team to improve in any way possible.
“I think the focus and mindset was different,” Davy said. “We came out here knowing we could win and had the mindset to get a win. We were ready to play, we weren’t scared and weren’t backing down from anything.”
For Fox Creek, the loss to North Augusta is disappointing, but doesn’t change the goals of the team.
“We made a lot of mental errors out there in the field,” Roby Gillespie, Fox Creek’s shortstop, said. “We could have hit the ball better; we popped up a lot. That’s the way it goes sometimes; you beat yourself. We played a good ballclub today, North Augusta has a good time. It doesn’t count in our region record and that’s all that matters to us. Just another game.
Both Brown and Gillespie said the atmosphere of the game made it even more special.
“It’s like a playoff atmosphere out here,” Gillespie said. “You love the atmosphere and the intensity from both teams. You just love it.”
“That was one of the biggest crowds we have played in front of,” Brown said. “At Fox Creek we have great support and community involvement. That’s why it is so cool to be at Fox Creek.”
Earlier in the week Fox Creek beat Hunter-Kinard-Tyler, 26-4.
Fox Creek will play host to North on Tuesday and will then take on Williston-Elko at home on Thursday. They’ll finish up the week with a home date in a grudge match game against Grovetown on Saturday.
“They had our number last time,” Brown said of Grovetown. “We haven’t really hit the ball lately. ... I think it has more to do with us and we have to find a way to get past that as coaches.”
For North Augusta, a rematch with White Knoll will begin a week of region games. The Jackets fell to White Knoll 10-0 in five innings earlier in the season.
“I hope we can use this game to get that first region win,” Radcliff said. “They beat us at their place, with the 10 run rule. I don’t think they were that much better than us, they were ok. It starts on the mound for us.”
The Jackets will move on to play Lakeside at home on Wednesday and will travel to South Aiken on Friday. On Saturday St. Rita will come to play at Riverview Park and on April 7, North Augusta will play at Cross Creek.
T.J. Lundeen is a reporter for The North Augusta Star. Follow him on Twitter @lundeentj for more updates.
FOX CREEK 002 000 0 – 2
NORTH AUGUSTA 300 041 x – 8
WP - Trib Reece 1-1
LP - Dalton Swires 5-2